1844 - The Espionage Scandal

Giuseppe Mazzini, the creator of the Young Italy Movement, had plans of ending the Austrian occupation and wanted a  unified Italy; he took refuge living in London as an exile. Austrian ambassador, Baron Philipp von Neumann was not eager about Mazzini’s plans, and requested to the British Secretary of State for the Home Department, Sir James Graham, that he keep a close eye on Mazzini. This led to an issue of a warrant on the first of March in 1844 which completely transformed the link between privacy and communication. 

Months later in June, Thomas Duncombe, from Finsbury, argued that Mazzini should be valued the right to privacy and should be exempt from having his letter taken and copied for examination. Duncombe stated, “Parliament placed its confidence in the individual exercising this power, it was not for the public good to pry or inquire into particular causes which called for their exercise thereof.” The press grabbed a hold on the “espionage scandal” and a storm ensued when it was clear that the government was able to violate the privacy of citizens without the citizens knowing, 

The Penny Post Act established a certain amount of trust between the government and the correspondents that they would be able to have privacy, given that the Act made letter-writing more economically accessible. After 1844, the issuing of warrants for letter opening stopped. The relationship between writers and their private letters became evident that privacy was an integral part of human nature. 

Lawson, Kate. “Personal Privacy, Letter Mail, and the Post Office Espionage Scandal, 1844.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Web. Accessed 11 November 2020. 


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